Masturbation: 3 Tips for Talking to Teens

Masturbation 3 Tips for Talking to Teens

Masturbation: 3 Tips for Talking to Teens

You might wonder why a tech guy would ever try to write about masturbation. This one word causes awkward squirming and lack of eye-contact like no other.

No one wants to talk about it.

Parents want to ignore it.

But here’s an uncomfortable reality –tweens and teens are watching Internet porn and masturbating early and often. In other words, there’s a definite connection between technology and masturbation that parents just can’t ignore.

I know this because I respond almost daily to blog comments at Covenant Eyes from teens who desperately want to break free from habitual masturbation.

Here is a sample of comments from the past couple of months. Get ready – this might be overwhelming for some of you. But, each of these is a real kid who is really struggling.

“Hi I’m 17 and I love God and I serve him but I also have a bad porn problem…I pray for it but I keep letting him [God] down. I know I can be forgiven but I keep turning back to it…it always comes back. I need prayers my name is ***** and I just need help to be set free from porn and masturbation.

Masturbation affects my studies and sports. I masturbate at night [while using my phone]. Please help me. I do believe in God and have prayed regarding this many times!”

“Hi, l am 18 years old and have masturbated since my freshman year of high school…l would like some advice about what to do!”

As a woman, I have struggled with masturbation since I was six, related to sexual abuse and early pornography exposure…

I have been suffering from masturbation since I can remember. When I got into secondary school, I was ten and that’s when I knew what I was doing. Later I also started looking at pornographic materials. Please I have tried and tried to stop with no solution. I know it’s a sin and I need help. Please reply”

Hi, I’ve been doing porn and masturbation since I was 15 and now I’m 18 and I really want to stop because it is affecting my life badly. I’m even losing interest in basketball because I’d rather stay at home and watch porn than go for practice…I feel really awful and there is this strong feeling of hate and doubt I have for myself deep within and there this lack of interest I get towards stuff lately, even with friends. I really need your help and advice……please reply.”

“I am 17. Live in Nigeria. And I have a big porn/masturbation problem….right now, I’m feeling very guilty and depressed. I just finished masturbating. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever break free of this 3 year-old addiction.

“I am 15 years old. I am suffering from a porn and masturbation problem and I have no one whom I trust to share this with. I am an Atheist and I would really appreciate if someone would like to help me. Please I request you.”

“I am 15 years old. Between the ages of 5 and 8 or 9, I was sexually abused by my brother. I have struggled with masturbation, porn, and sexual temptation ever since. Now I’m 16 years old. I wanna control myself from this bad habit. Please help me.”

This is just a sample.

Here are 3 tips to help parents talk about this complicated issue.

Do Your Homework

woman hands on bible. she is reading and praying over bible over wooden table

What do you believe, mom and dad? Will they go blind? Is masturbation sinful? If so, why? What does your religious denomination believe? Can you explain your thoughts clearly, but gently and without judgment?

If your son or daughter asks you, “why is it wrong?” You need to have a response other than “it’s just bad” or “just don’t do it.”

The topic of masturbation is complicated and controversial because the Bible is practically silent on the topic. As a result, some denominations stay neutral. Focus on the Family makes this statement, “this is an area where we have to be careful about laying down hard and fast rules or assuming that we know exactly how God views this matter.”

On the other hand, Catholic teaching is quite clear that masturbation is sinful. But, do you know why? St. Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body (TOB) offers a beautiful explanation of God’s original design for sex, based on our Genesis origins.

He contends that sex is a Divine gift to be offered based on love and marital commitment, instead of a solo act of “self-sex” based on lust. In other words, sexual love – the most intimate expression of love – was not intended to terminate on “self”. It is a gift to be given. This is reflective of the character of God, who is a “giver” by nature, “For God gave His one and only Son….”(John 3:16).

Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, it’s very much worth your time to read a summary of St. John Paul’s writings, which are all based on Scripture. You will be informed and better equipped to answer the “why?” question.

Don’t Freak Out

summer, emotions, style and people concept - face of scared middle aged latin man in shirt and sunglasses

If you discover your son or daughter has been masturbating, take a deep breath and calm down before talking about it with him or her. There’s nothing to be gained by freaking out. The first conversation is critical for setting the tone for the discussion.

Be direct but gentle. Based on the many, many comments I’ve read from teens, I can almost guarantee that shame and guilt are doing their job to beat up your child.  You don’t need to join the disappointment party.

Instead, they need to know that you still love them. If you land on the side of masturbation is a habit that should be stopped, then talk through your reasons why (because you already did your homework – see above). Stay far, far away from an attitude of judgment in your tone and your facial expressions.

When you choose to not freak out, it helps them know that they aren’t a freak.

Listen closely to what they are saying. It might be that masturbating is a self-soothing behavior – a way of coping with the stresses and anxieties of life by meeting the need for comfort and peace. If this is the case, maybe a parent help their child replace the behavior with a more positive activity.

Focus on the Family makes this wise statement:

“Your approach to this issue will need to be both tactful and realistic. A bottom line worth stressing is that masturbation should not play a major role in your child’s life, either as a source of relentless guilt or as a frequent and persistent habit that displaces healthy sexual relations in the future. If it happens once in a while, it happens. But it should not be pursued as a form of recreation, especially while viewing sexually provocative material, and it should never be allowed to occur with other people.”

Understand this: Masturbation = Watching Porn and Watching Porn = Masturbation

Despair sad girl looking at computer's screen

Watching pornography will eventually include masturbation. The body’s natural sexual response caused by repeated exposure to pornography will demand that a young person does something at some point.

Similarly, someone who masturbates will eventually start watching porn in order to continue achieving the type of sexual response required to masturbate regularly.

Recently, Barna published their insightful analysis of pornography consumption in America called The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age. Their data showed that 41% of Christian men and 13% of Christian women ages 13-24 view porn regularly.

Therefore, I contend that many (if not all) of the young people who regularly view porn are also masturbating. Why wouldn’t they? Pornography makes it seem 100% acceptable, good, and amazing.

We were wired for sexual stimulation.

If you’re Christian, this is because God created us to bond with our spouse through the sexual experience to create the “one flesh” described in Genesis 2:24. If you’re an evolutionist, this is because if we keep having sex, the species survives. In other words, sexual stimuli fire up our brain’s rewards system in ways other stimuli don’t.

And, when kids combine pornography + masturbation + orgasm, it equals formula that is very tough to overcome. Neurologically, the body is screaming, “MORE! MORE! MORE!” But, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally, the heart is screaming, “MAKE IT STOP!”

Is Now the Right Time?

Naturally, parents will ask, “When do I bring up the topic of masturbation?” My response would be, “much earlier than you think you should.”

Do high school students need to know what you believe about the topic? What scripture can teach us about lust and love? Probably. What about middle schoolers? Maybe not, but I’ll leave it up to each parent.

This response is not a cop out. I just don’t know your kid well enough to give a blanket answer. If your 8th-grade son has had free and open access to YouTube without much monitoring and spends hours and hours consuming Internet content and playing video games, then he probably knows more about masturbation than you do. On the other hand, if your 9th-grade daughter is rather sheltered, has closely monitored Internet access, and has positive awesome friendships, then she’s probably not ready to hear about it. You know your kid best.

And, don’t forget that with an awkward topic like masturbation, in many families, everyone will feel more comfortable if mothers talk with daughters and fathers with sons. In a single parent situation, rely on a trusted friend, relative or youth pastor to fill in some gaps in this sensitive area.

This was a difficult blog to write! I wanted to be direct and helpful, but delicate, knowing that it’s complicated. Given the flood of comments I’ve recently received from hurting, guilt-ridden young people, it seemed necessary to tackle the subject.

Based on the blog comments, it’s clear that technology is giving kids a doorway to pornography that is destroying their lives and accelerating addiction on multiple fronts.

These comments provide further evidence to me that in the digital age, there is no room for passive parenting. Dr. Google doesn’t take a break, and neither can we. Consistent and persistent conversations, even about the awkward stuff, are a parent’s best defense against destructive behaviors.

If you found this information helpful, would you subscribe to my technology updates below and share this post with a friend? I’m certain there are many parents who could benefit from this post, but I need your help! Thank you.

Peace, Chris

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27 thoughts on “Masturbation: 3 Tips for Talking to Teens”

  1. Thank you Chris, this was very helpful! I appreciate your willingness to speak into such a sensitive topic. As a parent I found this article encouraging and to the point, and not judgmental in any way. This is definitely a relevant discussion to be having.

  2. Joan bendia ombaka

    Thank for you advice am a single parents and my 15 years son do this now I no how to talk to her,thanks again

  3. A 50 year old single male youth leader was found to have secretly set up a chatroom for a particular group of boys, some of whom were struggling with this issue. The purpose was to ‘help’ each other. Have you ever heard of this sort of thing helping a struggling teen?

    1. I’m typically not in favor of a youth leader of any kind setting up a secret group with boys when it comes to sensitive topics. The church’s policies should dictate the rules of interacting with students so that these situations don’t occur. Too much that can go wrong (in my opinion).


  4. My 12 yr old son spends hours watching YouTube. He is glued to his iPad such that he doesn’t even go to another part of the house without it. He would rather watch YouTube than anything else-even playing video games. Lately he has spent a LOT of time (hours even) on the toilet, watching YouTube. I have found big piles of torn up little pieces of TP when he was done in the trash can next to the toilet. Idk what’s going on, but I’m worried he’s maybe masturbating a lot. We told him masturbation was a natural part of sexual development, but to avoid doing it if he can so that it doesn’t become habitual. That was when he was like, 10? His dad refuses to talk to him. My son is extremely shy around strangers and would die if his youth leader tried to talk to him. I’m disabled and bedridden and his dad is mentally ill. We have no friends (well, my son does). All my Christian “friends” disappeared when I became ill. So I have no one else to talk to him. What should I do? How can I tell if he’s got a problem? I don’t want to trigger a problem by asking him about it if he doesn’t have a problem. And I don’t want him to grow up having problems being a habitual masturbator! Due to severe abuse, rape, and sexual abuse, I have been masturbating since I was 3. I know all to well how terrible it is. Please advise how to help him not suffer the same.
    A very concerned mom

    1. Hello, there’s so, so much to unpack there. It’s hard to know where to begin. For issues as deep as the ones you’re dealing with personally, no amount of self-effort can fix them. I’m a huge believer in good therapy. I also don’t believe that by having a loving conversation about it is going to trigger anything. If he’s masturbating regularly, your questions aren’t going to make it happen more if you do it with curiosity instead of condemnation. Yes, a lot of people masturbate, and there are varying opinions on its impact when done infrequently. But, it’s something that young teens, once they get started, often struggle to control, and it almost always is paired with pornography, which is the real issue. Honestly, I’m so much less concerned about the masturbation than I am with the porn consumption during these very formative years. If there’s a way for you to approach that topic, gracefully, then that’s what I’d try for.

      Are there any relatives, grandparents, in the picture? Anyone who can lovingly approach him? It’s going to be awkward at first no matter who tries to talk to him. But, trust can build with someone who is willing to spend time with him and when the Spirit presents the opportunity, a conversation about the awkward stuff can happen.

      I wish you all the best and will pray for a solution when I finish this response.

  5. Hey Chris, I don’t masturbate but my friend does. He said he wants to stop but he doesn’t like talking about it anytime I bring it up just to help him. I really want to help him so much cus I know the guilt he feels when ever he does it. My question is how can I help him if when ever I bring it up he hates it so I just don’t bring it up but I am still bothered.

  6. Regret the What-if

    I began masterbating as a boy around age 12. I dropped out of school at 15 and ran away from home. My parents were divorced, it wasn’t good. It didn’t take long for it to become an addiction used as a coping mechanism. Some days I would do it two to three times, but “always” an everyday Habit to get that fascinating feeling. I found it easy to self medicate my guilt and depression with drugs and dangerous behaviors. This habit has affected “all” of my relationships with Girls from the age of 15-18 I can’t count how many failed Girlfriend relationships I let slip away because I was too much into myself. Pile on Drug use abusing pills, doing acid a dozen times or more smoking pot everyday, I was lost!!! Thank God I married at 18 but I never stopped master-bating or using drugs.. The Guilt and depression is so very bad. All I did was self medicate with drugs and sex. I ran away from that marriage 3 or 4 times. I put my Wife thru hell.. I tried to commit suicide twice. I’ve been thru two drug rehabs. I cannot shake the guilt and shame from my past. And The guilty feeling of WHAT IF has never subsided. I’m now 57 years old Been married 35 years or so. But I now have erectetile dis function . My Wife is Sick so sex in our marriage is out of the question. Pornography on the Web nowadays is rampant, and having erectile disfuntion, it doesn’t help me at all. It only feeds the urge I cannot satisfy any more.
    My Sincere Heartfelt advice to all young boys and girls these days, AVOID Porn! When I was 12, it was VERY hard to find. And now It’s everywhere on the Web. It may seem the norm and great, but it’s nothing to partake in. The tender age of Discovering what our body’s were meant for, is healthy! But please avoid self abuse and Porn! Don’t develop your young minds on self abuse!. If your masterbating regularly and daily, my advice is please stop, get involved with other activities! By all means TALK to someone you trust! Finish High School! I lost my tender youth and the opportunity for proper brain development and healthy relationships , don’t end up like that.. Build good relationships and avoid the WHAT IF? ☮️?

  7. Sorry 4 bad inglish I am Indian.

    My son has Ben watching porno and I check phone at night but I see nothing. I know he doing it I hear him, but how do I see what he is searching?

    Thanks you- rashad

  8. I try to have talk with him earlier today and he sayd that he doesnt do it. Wen I put lock on browser he yelled at me and call me bad father. Y won’t he talk to me about it and y he so mad at me. I just try to protect my son. I love him very much and I am not shure he loves me anymore. Please help Chris.


    1. Hello, Rashad – I just want to encourage you to talk through it. Talk about the things that you expect about using the internet well. Then ask for his help in coming up with solutions. Locking his internet is going to make him upset, which you’ve seen. You’re always the parent and can make the decisions that you think are best. I just want to encourage you to invite his input wherever possible.


  9. I am a 14 year old Christian boy and I masturbate every night, sometimes watching porn sometimes not, I know it’s normal for teens to masturbate but I am a Christian and my religion doesn’t think it’s right, I’m not worried for now since I am a teen, but will I naturally grow out of this or will this habit stay with me until I take action?

    1. Hi, Fred – it’s very easy for the brain to start to preference porn + masturbation over engaging in intimacy with a real person at some point in your married future. In other words, the habit will stay – the brain is a shapable organ – especially while you’re a teen! The behaviors you perform as a teen – over and over again – are behaviors that create some neural pathways that are really difficult to change as an adult. Think of it like walking a path in the woods over and over again. It gets worn and then becomes the easiest way to get through the woods. The brain is similar – if it starts to believe that the combination of porn and masturbation is the easiest path to sexual satisfaction – much easier than the good, but hard work of earning intimacy with a real, breathing woman – then it’s going to push you toward porn and masturbation. I know because I’ve been there.

      Yes – definitely natural to experiment in this way as a teen. No condemnation from me. But be careful. Your brain is really shapable right now. What you give your brain now is what it will learn to love.

      I wish you the best!

    1. Hi, Landon – it’s bold and amazing for you to say something about this issue. You’re at a really critical age for finding the right help. Can you talk to anyone about this? Very, very, very few of us is able to find lasting freedom with our own power. I know that I could NOT! God bless, Chris

  10. Hey Chris, I’ve only just started masturbating about a year or 2 ago. I do it very often and am concerned for myself. I tend to watch a lot of porn whilst doing this. Is there any way I can stop, without telling anyone? I’m far too embarrassed.
    Many thanks,
    -Codie (girl)

    1. Hello, Codie – you’ve left a very brave comment. I’m probably not the best person, as an adult man, to guide you through the specifics of female masturbation, but I can tell you a couple of things that are fairly universal about this issue – whether male or female. Just a couple of thoughts/questions:

      – There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. I think there’s a lot MORE shame for females around this issue than with guys just due to a level of acceptance. I’m so sorry about that.
      – We all have our triggers. I’m not sure what first triggered it for you, but is there anything you can do to disrupt that trigger in some way? Identifying triggers is another exercise that both guys and girls can benefit from.
      – Are you a Christian? That might shape a few things I might say.
      – How old are you? That might also shape some of the things I might say.

      Take it one day at a time. You’ve trained your brain to expect this activity. It’s going to take some time to un-do those things. We can sometimes just keep setting ourselves up for disappointment if we can’t stop cold turkey. I honestly don’t know anyone who has 🙂

      Alright, that’s probably enough. Depending on your answers, I might introduce you to a woman friend who has a lot of experience working with women who might want to remove an unwanted sexual behavior, like masturbation. In the meantime, stay strong! You’re awesome for stepping into the light. It’s not easy.

      Have a great night!

  11. Hello, you can call me Winter. I’m 15 years old girl from that struggle with masturbation. I’ve accidentally started it since i was 12, i really want to get out of this sin. I need advice… i don’t want it, it’s embarrassing for myself. Nobody know about this. Not even my parents or bestfriends. Really need help. And by the way, i’m a christian (protestant) and by doing masturbation, it’s makes God sad. I don’t want this. Please. Help me.


    1. Hi, Winter – it’s very brave to step forward to say something. First – it doesn’t make God sad. We have this wrong idea of a disappointed Father, shaking his finger at us. Nope. Not true. Still loving. Still accepting.

      Is viewing pornography part of the cycle? It will be important to try and interrupt the triggers. Be it porn, or a certain time of day, or a certain place – please head to Covenanteyes.com and their blog. In there, search for “masturbation,” and you’ll find many posts from women who have struggled with this issue. You’re NOT the only one. You’re just one of the few, brave ones who actually speak out to do something about it.

      But, first, I just want to do whatever I can to get rid of this shame-filled idea that you’re someone less holy or less worth of God because of this. None of that is true. Your status in heaven has not changed because of this. You want to stop – it’s an unwanted sexual behavior – so let’s try a few of these things to get rid of it. That’s all. You’re still amazing. You’re still his daughter. You’re still good 🙂

      In Christ,

    2. Don’t worry my friend you must go outside with family or friends .one day you will leave from this problem ☺️

  12. Thanks Chris. Your blog sees exactly through me and you’ve made me realize in a way how I can help myself and help others. In my kind of society, parents don’t really help their children through puberty, they just believe the church would handle that part of their children’s life and they frequently engage you in a short conversation telling you the downsides of not managing your sexual drive properly (it’s more of a commanding conversation rather than one of understanding) and telling you what they would do to you if you ever get anyone pregnant or get pregnant. They do that because it’s comfortable for them that way and it saves them the awkwardness of talking about sex. I think they believe you would figure it out yourself. And when you make a mistake all the blame is on you. In my world if your parents find evidence that you watch pornography or masturbate(which isn’t exactly a surprise to them because they also passed through it, maybe just differently). Man! You are in trouble both physically and psychologically. Your relationship changes with them. Within them they know it’s not really your fault but theirs for not properly counselling you but they are too egoistic to admit it. This is not to say that they do not perform well as parents. I would give anything to have them as parents again if I came back to the world as a baby but I would just add a little of puberty and sex counselling with understanding. I’ll say to some extent I’ve gotten my puberty life figured out, I’m just scared for my little brother who’s just entering into it which is the major reason for writing this. If you’re reading this you’ll probably be bored with this long story of mine. I just felt like expressing my feelings concerning the challenges of puberty.

    1. Hello! I love honesty and transparency like this. It’s so healthy and the church really stinks at it (you’re right!). I bet your brother will do a whole lot better with your wisdom and guidance to show him the way. Don’t hold back – keep sharing, keep helping, and be bold! I wish you the very best and you find you path.


  13. I am genuinely surprised to read this article. I found it because I was concerned about my son, age 13 (nearly 14) being woken in the night with wet dreams and becoming grumpy periodically. I was shocked that he hadn’t learnt from school that masturbation is a normal part of self-care, and that he has no clue how to do it. Reading this article, and some of the comments I’m now even more shocked. Are parents/church really upset that young people are taking care of their bodily needs, and is this really so embarrassing to talk about?

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